Monday, 16 September 2019

Erehwen: An Overview

So I've had some irons stuck in my fire. A setting called K'thyna and another called Erehwen. If you remember I mentioned Erehwen before when I answered 20 setting questions about it. Back on August 21st.

Well I also hit up Azgaar's Fantasy Map Generator (which since has hit version 1.0). After a bit of tweaking this is what I got:

This is the continent of Ukush. Or at least it's southern portion. It's roughly 1,800 km by about 1,600 km in size, or about 2,880,000 square kilometres in area. It's a small continent but more than big enough for our needs. It's a tropical region with a high mountain range dominating the center of the landmass, providing a cooling effect to the surrounding land.

hot stuff
The Temperatures of  Ukush
The equator is somewhere off Tiorvia's southern coast and not by much.

There are 14 cultures, 16 nations and at least 10 sophont species on the above maps. But we're only really interested in one nation. There, on the eastern side of the map, that cool spot. Erehwen.

Erehwen and Neighbours
The Realm of Erehwen (yes: N-E-Where backwards; or possibly "New Here") surrounded on all sides by the Alvaborszag Prectoriate, the Principality of Beobwon, the Duchy of Eigionia, and the kingdoms of Pachargia, Tintaria and Thorn.
While Eigionia and Pachargia are separated from Erehwen by mountain ranges, and Alvaborszag is literally in the mountains, the rest are not. Thorn's and Erehwen are connected by two rivers, and the borders to Beobwon, Tintaria and Thorn are completely open.

Culturally and religiously, the largest and most expansive group (with 9,2 million believers) are the followers of the Old Way and the New Way; "Kirzastianity" according to their religious and cultural rivals. Although the faithful would never dead-name a deity like that. However I'm neither faithful nor writing about a real thing so I'm going to call it Kirzastianity.
It's an essentially benign religion; a balance between the responsibility and traditionalism of the Old Way and the acceptance and innovation of the New Way. Its popularity lies in that 100% of the Erehwen born clergy can work miracles. In the rest of the world no more that 10% of the clerics or any religion can perform miracles (PC clerics are, of course, always among the miracleworkers).

Alvaborszag, Beobwon, Erehwen, Tintaria and Thorn are all predominantly Kirzastian. There are even believers in the eastern part of the Muuttusan Empire.

This is slightly problematic in that Alvaborszag is supposed be the protectorate of the Vangrian culture; the "orcs". Although the o-word is a racial slur. However so many Vangrians have converted to Kirzastianity that the former culture is essentially dead.

Beobwon still contains pockets of the original Luari culture.

Thorn has a problem in a home-grown non-theist movement, Pasburism, that denounces the Powers and promotes the populace to find power in sorcery and eldritch magic. It's also a republican movement in that it decries the "divine right" of monarchs to rule. In all fairness the Old and New Powers only claim the authority to decide the ruler of Erehwen; there is no official record of their opinions regarding the rulership of other nations. While only 1% of the human population have the "talent" to work eldritch magic, the Pasburists have developed a method to share that ability with their less fortunate fellows. The number of these "Warlocks" is unknown but spreading. They openly walk the streets of Ameshil, in packs, tussling with the army and templars. Even the Beobwonian city of Fiverbury has turned to the Pasburist cause. Rebellion is brewing.

County of Lyster, each hex is 40km
Trouble is also brewing on the border between Alvaborszag, Beobwon and Erehewn. The county of Lyster, which has a silver mine and the only road into, or out of, Alvaborazag, has been part of Erehwen for centuries. But in the last year the Count defected to Beobwon and took everything. The current Erehwenian monarch, the outlander, Maya I said something about teaching the count to play games with thrones. Whatever that means.

Tarragon is the unlabeled circle in the middle
Meanwhile over in Tarragon City, where I want to base my campaign, the monarch has ordered the abandoned dungeons beneath the castle, the mysterious Tarragon Oubliette, opened to explorers and is looking for volunteers to delve its depths. There are concerns that enemies of the realm might be seeking to plunder the city's depths.

Thursday, 12 September 2019

A Brief Apology

Sorry I've not blogged anything in almost three weeks. I've been 'distracted' by poor health. Nothing serious, but enough to throw me off my stride.

I'll get back to you with something in the next few days.

Thanks in advance for your understanding.

Friday, 23 August 2019

Tarragon Oubliette: Combat Thoughts

I've been thinking about how combat will work in Project Tarragon Oubliette.
I want to condense everything down to as few die rolls as possible to keep things moving quickly.

Usually combat goes:

  1. Initiative roll
  2. Attack roll versus Defence
  3. Damage roll
    Then back to the start

But I've already screwed things up with my plans.


I'm using a version of the Mearles initiative system. Which is to say initiative uses different die sizes depending upon the weapon, or spell. With a melee weapon's initiative die being the same as its damage die. Higher numbers go later.

So a sword that 1d6 damage rolls 1d6 for initiative.

To add insult to injury I've settled on a 6 second round and a 5 foot/1.5 metre step.

Given that the largest weapons do 1d12 damage, this would mean that each pip on the die was half a second long. I could either go with half second "segments", decide its all abstract and each "pip" doesn't represent real time at all, or go with 1 second segments/"pip" and just accept that the heavier weapons will be going once every other round.

Or do I need rounds at all?

If I'm measuring things in seconds maybe I could just have an accumulating shot counter. first strike is on 3, second goes on (3+5)  8, third goes on (8+5) 13, and so on and so forth. Campaign for Real Time, and all that.


I want active defence rolls. I want the PCs to be rolling for both attack and defence. However this runs counter to my idea of reducing rolls to speed up combat. I can think of a couple of ways around it.

  • Players roll 6d6 and split into two sets of 3d6. Once for attack and one for defence.
  • Players roll 3d6 and decide if it's going to be an attack roll or a defence roll. The other gets a flat +10 to it.
Attack roll would be a contested task:
3d6 + [Attribute Bonus] + [Skill Ranks] +/- [other modifiers]  ≥ 3d6 + [Attribute Bonus] + [Skill Ranks] +/- [other modifiers]

The Attribute Bonus for the attack side of the equation would be Strength Modifier for Melee and  Brawling, and Dexterity Modifier for Ranged.
The Attribute Bonus for the defence side would be Dexterity Modifier.
Skill Ranks for attack would be based on weapon? Base Attack Bonuses? It's something I need to write about down below.
Skill Ranks for defence would be a dodge skill? Possibly weapon or shield skill for parrying.
Other modifiers for the attack side would be general bonuses from weapons and talents. But most importantly it also includes the damage die.
Other modifiers for the defence side would include bonuses from armour, possibly including an Resistance die. Which is a die roll to soak damage using armour; sort of an anti-damage die.

Why is damage part of the attack roll? Because of this:
Critical Hits
To keep things simple, instead of lengthy critical hit tables, this is what we'll do:
For every point you roll over to hit your foe you do an extra point of damage.
So if your foe had AC5 and your THAC0 is 20 a roll of 15+ is a hit. At 16 you'd do +1 damage. At 20 you'd do +5.
All the math is at my end too.
Heroic Effort
Since everyone is rolling to-Hit and Damage at once (good players, DM like) I'm going to implement a rule that applies to Players Only.
If you miss but your target is within your To-Hit+Damage roll I will deduct damage points until you successfully hit.
So, FoEx, if you roll 14 and 6 damage but you needed a 15 to hit, You'll hit but only do 5 damage. So if you had only rolled 1 damage you'd have miss because you'd have done 0 damage if you had hit.
I hope this makes sense.  
That comes from a CSIO campaign I ran on using OSRIC. Everyone would roll attack and damage at once, which was good because it kept things going. It also tempted me to apply damage as a bonus to hit.

Since Project Tarragon Oubliette doesn't have a critical hit system I thought applying damage to hit  to the attack would mean an exceptional roll would result in exceptional damage.

The idea is that, if you hadn't guessed from my terrible explanation above, the Effect of the attack roll (degree of success or failure) is applied as a modifier to damage.

However when just plugged into the resolution formula like that the effect that I was hoping for ("I rolled poorly on attack but did just enough damage that some sneaks through their defence!") is lost. Instead of modifying damage it becomes a case of whomever rolls highest applies the Effect as damage to their opponent.

In which case do I even need a defence roll at all? Just attack roll versus attack roll, highest wins...

But if I don't include the damage (and resistance) dice as part of the combat roll then combat becomes:

  1. Roll Initiative
  2. Attack roll versus Defence
  3. Damage roll; apply Effect of attack to damage.
  4. Defence roll versus Attack
  5. Resistance roll to reduce damage
Its gone long rather than short.


I'm unsure what to do combat, skills-wise.

The simplest is the good old singular Combat skill with different techniques and weapons as specialisations of that skill. The old BAB route.

The other extreme would be seperate skills for each weapon and technique.

The middle ground would either be to split combat into two skills; one for ranged combat and one for close quarters/melee. Or to divide in some other way, such as Archery, Brawling, Melee, Throwing, and if/when I include them Firearms.

I dunno seems too much.

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Tarragon Oubliette Setting: 20 Questions

"Hey!" I hear you all not yelling. "Where's this last two weeks blog post?"
Well truth is, dear reader, I wrote two posts about the setting of K'thyna I'm working on before realising that both would spoil the setting for any players. I also realised that I really need to playtest Tarragon Oubliette. So then I started working on a setting to playtest in.

The DREAM of Erehwen.

Erehwen is named for its founder and first ruler, the dragon Erehwen who lived within the herb-covered crag of Tarragon Rock. The realm is a monarchy, but the monarch is 'elected' through divine providence. In short the three main religious groups are told by their deities, the Powers, who the best choice would be. Given the nature of these Powers it's never someone untalented at the job and, unless things are going to be particularly boring, usually have strange ideas. This has resulted on a highly enlightened society. For instance, due to having had an orc rule during one particular war-like decade orcs can be subjects of the realm, with all the rights thereof.

Here's Jeff Reint's Quick 20 Questions for the setting of Erehwen:

1. What is the deal with my cleric's religion?

Well you're a cleric, which means you're part of the Clergy. The clergy worship the New Way, also known as the New Power. Formerly known as Kirza Sacredgrove. Kirza was an Erehwenite born miraculously to a barren woman through the blessings of the Old Power. Born intersex both the Druids and the Dryads (witches) sought them out to teach them the secrets of the Old Ways. Kirzen was an attentive student, more so than many of their peers, but seemed... bored. They spoke of needing to find a new way and of having to go on a long journey. Not more a few days past their 13th birthday they woke early, packed a bag as if to travel, took a few steps from their front door and dropped dead. There was much grieving, but not long after Kirza's funeral there were sightings of them wandering the realm. Talking to people. Asking questions. On the morning of what would have been their 14th birthday a friend of theirs, Conn Goldeyes woke to find Kirza sitting at the foot of his bed.
 "I've found a new way," Kirza was reported to have said, "I want to show it to you." By dawn Conn was first of the Clergy.
The New Way/Power (nobody says "Kirza" anymore; that would be rude/blasphemy/deadnaming) focuses on laws, innovation, trade and all the other aspects of civilisation.

The Old Way focuses on nature and wilderness. Including hunting, animal husbandry, agriculture and, of course, the harvest. It is practiced by the aforementioned druids and dryads.

2. Where can we go to buy standard equipment?

There is a market in the capital, the city of Tarragon, where you can get pretty much everything legal. The illegal stuff will be tougher, you might have to head for the border for that. There are smaller markets across the realm with typically a  smaller range of available equipment.

3. Where can we go to get platemail custom fitted for this monster I just befriended?

The Storm Forge, just on the corner of Tarragon Market Square and Castle Rise, is the best smithy in the realm.

4. Who is the mightiest wizard in the land?

Archmagister Lohion Clearthorne is Chancellor of the Lyceum of Erehwen and, by popular reckoning, is the mightiest wizard in all the realm.

5. Who is the greatest warrior in the land?

Ser Dakio "Warmight" Axefang is regarded by many as the greatest of the realm's Guardians. Some attribute his ferocity in battle to his Orc mother, but many who remember is father say that papa Axefang was a mean piece of work himself.

6. Who is the richest person in the land?

The realm of Erehwen itself. Castle Tarragon still sits atop the hoard of the dragon Erehwen and the dungeons beneath.

7. Where can we go to get some magical healing?

Given that all the clergy within Erehwen can work miracles and a decree by the current monarch means that they have an obligation to heal the realm's subjects, magical healing is easily found. There are also special clergical doctors who focus entirely on healing. The druids and dryads also have access to healing magic. The clergy, druids and dryads aren't allowed to charge for their healing services, nor refuse the needy, but can request donations. Since some 'healing' spells require expensive ingredients and material components these are usually included in any requested donations.

8. Where can we go to get cures for the following conditions: poison, disease, curse, level drain, lycanthropy, polymorph, alignment change, death, undeath?

The aforementioned clergy, doctors, druids and dryads.

9. Is there a magic guild my MU belongs to or that I can join in order to get more spells?

Yes. Getting an education in magic sets one up for all sorts of prospects. The only form of magic that doesn't make the practitioner an immediate gentleperson is Wild Magic. That's only because it's proto-magic which is looked down by more 'sophisticated' practitioners.

10. Where can I find an alchemist, sage or other expert NPC?

The Grand Lyceum of Erehwen, at Tarragon, is the foremost school of learning in the realm, if not the world.
The Lyceum system results in a well educated and highly literate population.

11. Where can I hire mercenaries?

If you are a landowner you're allowed to raise a volunteer militia from among any tenants you might have. It's not uncommon for landowners to pay warriors to become tenants and join their militia. 

But that's not what you asked. You asked about mercenaries. There are... associations... of warriors. Not militias as such but combat solidarities. It might be possible to employ them. But most likely you'll end up bringing mercenaries from outside the realm, and that probably won't go down too well.

12. Is there any place on the map where swords are illegal, magic is outlawed or any other notable hassles from Johnny Law?

Not within the realm, as such. Most of that sort of thing is found beyond its borders. 

13. Which way to the nearest tavern?

In any town you're probably no more than a stone's throw from some sort of drinking establishment.

14. What monsters are terrorizing the countryside sufficiently that if I kill them I will become famous?

The foreign conspirators may have been releasing monsters into the countryside to destabilise things further.

15. Are there any wars brewing I could go fight?

Some of Erehwen's neighbours are attempting to take advantage of the upheaval from the new monarch. Some of it is ideological, much of it is opportunistic, but a great deal of it is out of fear of change. 

16. How about gladiatorial arenas complete with hard-won glory and fabulous cash prizes?

There are contests of skill. This can include gladiatorial style contests. Lightweight practice weapons are used to reduce the chance of injury and all such contests are to first blood or yield.

17. Are there any secret societies with sinister agendas I could join and/or fight?

There might be a dragon cult. There are certainly groups of conspirators funded or led by foreign agents to destabilise Erehwen.

18. What is there to eat around here?

The national dish is Tarragon Chicken. The local chickens have been bred until they are turkey sized.

19. Any legendary lost treasures I could be looking for?

First and foremost there are some missing dragon eggs.

20. Where is the nearest dragon or other monster with Type H treasure? 

In the depths of the Tarragon Oubliette.

Thursday, 8 August 2019

Tarragon Oubliette: Skilless Skill System

I suppose you're wondering how a skill system can be skilless.

Well firstly I'm not going to give you a list of skills. Because I'm not ready to yet. I'm not ready to work on the controls and bodywork until I've got an engine that functions, and a framework to support it, at least on paper. No game system survives contact with the players after all.

And secondly... well I'll get to that.

Skill System.

I said I wasn’t going to do this. This was to be an “old school” and thus skill free system. However in earlier drafts I found myself explaining the stealth mechanic I was then using for the umpteenth time, (well I was copy-pasting by that point,) and realised that species and class combinations were throwing the whole thing off I decided it would be far easier if I had a single “stealth” ability and could just say “stealth +1”.
Thus skills.

Skill Points.

Whenever a character “levels up” they get skill points to add to their skills. Although in some cases/classes this goes on hidden within the class progression system. However in many cases the player gets to decide what skills to improve with these points.
Starting characters also get a certain amount of skill points with which they acquire their starting skills. Although again this varies between settings, classes and characters.
(All fairly standard stuff)

Skill Ranks.

All skills are ranked 0 through to 9 with the number acting as a bonus to dice rolls involving those skills.

Unskilled Use.

If a character doesn’t have a skill (not even a rank of 0) then they are at -4 to any die rolls involving that skill. Modified further by skill difficulty.

Rank 0 

Represents the most basic of familiarity with a skill. A character who has invested a rank in a skill they did not previously have is at rank 0 with that skill. It costs 1 skill point to gain rank 0.

Rank 1 

Represents a minimal professional level with that skill. Rank 1 is enough to pass a test to get a license to practice that skill, if necessary. It is at rank 1 that a character may start investing ranks into specialisations of that skill. It’s also at rank 1 that some skills start to modify a character’s ability scores. It costs 1 skill point to progress from rank 0 to rank 1.

Rank 2 

Is a good solid professional level of skill. It costs 1 skill point to progress from rank 1 to rank 2.

Rank 3 

Is the peak of the professional level of skill. It’s the equivalent to a Bachelor's degree(?). It costs 2 skill points to progress from rank 2 to rank 3. 

Rank 4

It costs 2 skill points to progress from rank 3 to rank 4.

Rank 5

It costs 2 skill points to progress from rank 4 to rank 5.

Rank 6 

Represents mastery of a skill. In an academic skill a character with a rank of 6 would have the equivalent of a master’s degree. If they also had rank 6 in a specialisation within that skill they’d have the equivalent of doctorate. An MD has rank 6 in medicine. A surgeon has rank 6 medicine and rank 6 surgery.  It costs 3 skill points to progress from rank 5 to rank 6.
Total Skill Points by Rank

Rank 7

It costs 3 skill points to progress from rank 6 to rank 7.

Rank 8

It costs 3 skill points to progress from rank 7 to rank 8.

Rank 9 

Is the peak of ability. To further improve one must specialise. It costs 4 skill points to progress from rank 8 to rank 9.

Skill Difficulty.

Not all skills are equal, and some are more difficult than others. These more difficulty skills, usually specialisations, have a penalty that applies to every use of that skill. This is to encourage specialisation. For example a character who has specialised with 4 ranks in quantum physics, a specialism of physics with a difficulty of 4, would be rolling for quantum physics essentially without penalty (although the -4 would still be there, just countered by the ranks in the specialism) whereas a character with the physics skill and no specialisation in quantum physics would still be rolling at -4. A character with no skill in physics at all would roll at -8 and expect to fail. 
Every skill has a difficulty rating of 0 or higher. However I would only recorded the difficulties of skills where the difficulty is higher than 0.
On a skill list it would look something like this:
  • Physics
    • Quantum Physics (4)
In a skill description it looks something like this:

Quantum Physics (Difficulty 4)

Skill Specialisation.

Many, if`not most, skills are general skills that cover wide variations of uses of said skill. Indeed many skills have uses not obvious at first blush. Such as the archery skill also including the maintenance and care, and even the construction of, bows and arrows. In addition to the use of specific types of bow.
All these “subskills” are considered specialisations of the parent skills and can have skill ranks invested in them to improve a character’s use of them in that area alone.
So a character with the archery skill may want to specialise in hunting bows (whatever they are) specifically, but not in longbows.

So Why Specialise?

There may seem little motivation for a character to specialise before reaching rank 9 other than to counter the penalties from higher difficulty skills.
A character with 9 ranks in archery alone is +9 to all archery related tasks while the character with archery 5 and “hunting” bows 4 is only +9 with “hunting” bow tasks and +5 in all other archery.
However to get to Archery 9 requires a total of 22 skill points while Archery 5 only costs 9, and the specialism of 4 only 7, for a total of 16 skill points. A saving of 6 skill points.

Ability Score Improvements.

In the real world people are not static and unchanging. We grow and develop, both intellectually and physically. (We can also go backwards and get worse in things but I’m not planing on modelling that for now.)
To simulate this some skills will increase a character’s ability scores at certain ranks. But only a single ability score. Usually ranks 1, 3, 6 and 9. Others improve scores at every rank from 1 onwards but again only one ability per rank and usually there’s multiple (no more than 3) ability scores to choose to improve.
There are hard limits. No score can be improved by more than 4 points from a single skill. No score may rise more than 8 points from its original score without some paranormal influence. And finally there is a hard cap for ability scores with none being able to be higher than 24. Although this last cap would not apply in many super-heroic games.

Why "Skilless"?

Because I can map anything I want onto this system.

I started this whole process by wanting to simplify my system by turning class features into skills. That hasn't changed. I can take almost any class feature I want and make it a skill. Sure I can say "Halflings get 1 skill point in stealth and Rogues get 1 skill point in stealth. Two skill points in stealth means stealth of rank 1." But why stop there?

Pop Quiz:

Q: What has been measured in levels between 0 and 9 in most editions since AD&D1e?
A: Arcane Spells.

So I can create an Arcane Spellcasting skill and say that a character can cast spells of a level equal to their rank in a skill. Perhaps call it "Wizardry". Do the same with divine spells and call it "Channeling". Sorcerers know sorcery, druids do druidry, witches and warlocks have witchcraft. Class specific casting skills and spell lists. Job done,
Fighters? Well they fight. A fighting skill seems too general. Archery, Brawling, and Melee. There's your Ranger, Monk and Fighter straight off.
A character's level is essentially the skill points in their class skills, so rank 9 around level 22. Specialisms can literally be specialised sub-classes that characters can choose to train into.
Each class can have a few skills, and some special abilities that fill the gaps when they level up but don't get a full rank. Everything tied to class and level. The Basic option.
Or I can go more Advanced and have slightly looser classes, letting players choose some skills from outside their classes. Maybe have a fighter that knows a bit of magic?
Or I can go completely loose. Have players roll on a chart to find out how many skill points and/or ranks they start with. I mean modern setting would expect a character to start with a Phd or MD. Perhaps streamline it a bit with predefined skill packages and let them pick a set number of them. Or something.
The options are endless.

"But Niles, nobody would want to play a starting magic user who can only cast cantrips or a fighter who is at +0 to hit!"
Well, hypothetical reader, I can simply give each class a talent (feat, feature, what-have-you) that gives them an effective +1 rank to one of their skills. So while the MU starts casting cantrips and first level spells, the character who learns spellcasting on the side (say as a "secondary skill") starts with just cantrips. Meanwhile the fighter starts with a +1 to melee. (Maybe the only difference between the ranger, monk and fighter is which skill they get their starting bonus on; didn't think of that, did you hypothetical reader!)

It doesn't even have to be skill based. Maybe, I dunno, the PCs can level up the local economy. Maybe it takes a thousand gold to set up a blacksmith and 22,000 to get it to its cap at "level 9".
With this system I can do anything. Well within reason.

The thing is all of this can be hidden away behind the interface and bodywork. On the outside it runs serenely, while underneath it's scrabbling furiously.

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Project Tarragon Oubliette: Stamina & Vitality

Having written about Resolve and Spirit, Delirium & Dementia and most recently about my dice mechanism I thought it was about time to go back where I started.

The thing that started off as DaD's RPG and became Project Tarragon Oubliette began with me looking at B/X and wondering what would happen if I switched the relationship between hit dice, attributes and classes.

So I started by having the hit dice based on Constitution and the hit point bonus based on class. Like this:

What happened was... well if you ever took things apart as a kid to see how they worked... That thing where you remove the last screw and there's an unexpected noise like "sproing!" and suddenly the thing is in very small pieces all over the floor. That? Yeah, that's what happened with B/X.

Only the floor was my brain.

I had the bits of B/X all over my brain. I could put it back together anyway I wanted. I could do anything!

So what was a thing in D&D that irritated me? Dying at zero hit points. One moment fine and then the next, dead. Didn't like it. There should be some buffer between 0 hp and death. None of this death's door malarky, no. My own thing. Having read about Death & Dismemberment tables I went looking for some.

I found some of course. I used them as reference and made my own. Very nice. I might share it at some point, although I can't stop tweaking. Currently trying to add hit locations without making it super complex.

Of course now hit points actually became the thing that they've always been described as but rarely ever used as: The thing spent to avoid injury and death.

What else could they do?

Well I found that it's easier to think of things in different and new ways if you call them different and new things. Well, at least new for me. First I started by calling them "Vitality", but more recently they became "Stamina" and vitality became something related but different.


Stamina is a measure of a character’s endurance. It is a pool of points that are depleted when a character is subject to strenuous physical activity and potential injury. It is most often lost during combat but can also be lost when using certain physical abilities.
As with resolve, stamina is calculated by rolling a number of dice equal to a character’s level. This is usually done by adding a single dice roll to the pre-existing resolve pool when a character levels up. But some players, and GMs like to re-roll the entire pool every level, or in the cases of some games, more often.
The number of sides the dice has is defined by their Constitution score, literally “Stamina die”, further limited by their background, and further modified by their class.
Thus a character who rolls a d6 for stamina and gains +1 from their class would roll 1d6+1 per level for their stamina.
Some GMs permit a starting character maximum stamina at first level. In the example above such a character would have 7 stamina.

Uses Of Stamina:

  • Soaking Damage: For every point of damage, a point of stamina can be spent to prevent vitality from being harmed. If there is insufficient stamina to negate the total amount of damage any remainder is applied to vitality as normal. This is the most common use for stamina. However a character need not spend stamina to soak damage if they don't want to.
  • Boosting Saving Throws: Stamina can be used to add to any saving throws for Might, Mortality, or Mobility. This is at a rate of +1 per point of stamina.
  • Boosting Dice Rolls: Likewise stamina can be used to increase any roll for physical activity. Again at +1 per point of stamina.
  • Activating Talents: Some talents (powers, feats, what-have-yous) require stamina be spent to be activated.

Recovering Stamina:

  • One point of stamina can be recovered every ten minutes of rest. However resolve cannot be recovered over the same period.
  • As with resolve, stamina can be restored to full after a full nights sleep (of 6+ hours, which need not be consecutive) in a comfortable bed. Or after the same sleeping rough if the previous day the character did not use a point of stamina for any reason. (So light activity in other words)
  • Similarly the character can recover an amount equal to half their maximum stamina if sleeping rough after a day's adventuring, or after a night's carousing.
  • Spells that restore vitality will also restore stamina once all vitality is restored.


Vitality is the measurement of the character's capacity to survive physical damage and associated injury. If a character runs out of, which is to say hits zero, vitality then that character dies. However it's more probable (I say that, but I've yet to do the maths) that the character will die of their injuries before then. Because whenever a character loses vitality, even a single point thereof, there is an associated roll on the Death & Dismemberment table.
Vitality equals the total of a character's Strength and Constitution attributes. Optionally you can add the Stamina per Level bonus based on the character's class, (see above) every level. But currently I'm not planning on doing that.

Vitality and Injury.

When a character is injured from a roll on the Death & Dismemberment table the amount of vitality loss that caused the injury is recorded with it. This is used to determine how long it will take for the injury to heal.
Vitality is capped by how injured a character is. A character with 21 vitality who has a penalty of -5 from  their injuries is capped at 15 vitality until those injuries are healed.

Recovering Vitality.

Typically a character will regain 1 point of vitality per day of  rest. However healing magic can restore vitality instantly and without scarring.
Injuries are healed separately and I'll write about that when I present the Death & Dismemberment table.

What Next?

That's all for today. I'm not feeling well. Which is why this is being posted so late.

Next I'll write about my skill system and why I call it "Skilless".

Monday, 5 August 2019

Project Tarragon Oubliette: Dice Mechanic/Task Resolution

I've been talking lots on the OSR Discord about Tarragon Oubliette and in line with my goal of blogging more actual game design I thought I'd record how I'm doing the core of the system; the dice rolling.

Core 'Philosophies'.

Okay so first off I'm replacing the 1d20 roll with 3d6.

This is because I like how the bell curve pulls towards the middle, which means that character ability and skill becomes more important.

Secondly a high roll is good.

This means that bonuses and penalties act as they look; -4 to a roll is bad, and +4 good. I also don't have to set a cap on how high things can go. If I want to adapt this for say, super-powered heroics (and I do), the system still holds itself together and functions as long as everyone and thing is essentially on the same page.

This 'good' aspect currently breaks down when it comes to things like the Death & Dismemberment and Delirium & Dementia tables. But I can probably fix that in the edit.

Thirdly, fewer rolls are good, but player rolls are better.

Rolling dice is fun, and is what makes TTRPGs different from sitting around and just telling each other stories. But too many rolls can get in the way of, and slow down, everything else in the game.
My solution is to get the players to do the majority of the rolling.
So for the most part I'll present them with static difficulties/TNs (see below) which they'll have to overcome; most NPCs and minor monsters will be nameless "mooks" with static attack and defence scores. I've still to decide if they can be taken out by 5+ damage or not.

Task resolution.

Tasks are either uncontested or contested. Each must equal or exceed a Target Number (TN) or Difficulty to succeed. Rolling under the TN indicates the task was failed.
Currently, when all things are considered the most general, standard, default uncontested TN is 12. That is to say in many, if not most, cases an uncontested roll of 12+ will succeed.
The amount by which a roll succeeds or fails, that is to say is above or below the TN, is called the degree of success (or failure). This is useful in measuring how well the character did and if further rolls are required. It is applied as, what I like to call, a modifier to effect.
This is an important thing to note. Either for damage, or long tasks. The degree of success or failure of an attack is applied as a modifier to the damage done by that attack. While for extended or long tasks it is applied as a modifier to the TN (see below).

Uncontested Tasks.

An uncontested task is basically a character versus some passive or environmental thing. Such as attempting to navigate a forest, or scale a cliff. If there is nothing actively trying to thwart the task in question then it’s probably uncontested.

Uncontested Task:

3d6 + [Attribute Bonus] + [Skill Ranks] +/- [other modifiers]  ≥ TN

Contested Tasks.

A contested task happens when do or more characters are attempting to outdo one another. They happen most commonly in combat and the most frequent contested task will between two characters is when one attempts to strike the other.
In essence the other character's dice roll becomes the TN of the task.

Contested Task:

3d6 + [Attribute Bonus] + [Skill Ranks] +/- [other modifiers]  ≥ 3d6 + [Attribute Bonus] + [Skill Ranks] +/- [other modifiers]

Extended Tasks.

When it comes to tasks many of them could take more than a single roll to complete. Tasks such as repairing a device, climbing a wall, searching a room, negotiating a treaty, or something similar the TN is reduced by the degree of success (or increased by the degree of failure). So unless the degree of success of a task equals or exceeds the TN then there will be need for at least one additional roll. If, through repeated failure, the TN grows beyond the character's ability to succeed then they can't succeed at that task. It's just beyond them. At least for the time being.

For Example a character is attempting to climb a cliff. It’s typically a typical uncontested [Dexterity] + [Freerunning] roll. Let’s take a hypothetical character. He’s a Ninja called “Bob”. His dexterity is 15 and he has Freerunning 6 and this being an Action game he’s rolling 3d!6. The TN to climb this particular cliff is 16. Rolling three 4’s, a 12, and adding +2 from dexterity and +6 from his Freerunning skill Bob’s player has a total of 20. He succeeds in his task by 4 points. This reduces the TN to 12, implying that he’s covered about a quarter of the distance. His roll the next round is is 6, 3, and 6. Those two 6’s explode and he rerolls them, getting a 4 and a 2. That’s 21, +2+6, or a total of 29. He easily scales the remaining distance. 
Had "Bob" rolled a 6 for his first roll then his total would have been 14, 2 under the 16 TN. This would mean that the TN would go up to 18. The second roll of 29 would have had an effect modifier of 11, meaning that the TN would have been reduced to 7. 
This introduces another idea:

Automatic Successes: Taking 3 & Taking 10.

Simply put if a character is sufficiently capable that, all modifiers considered, a minimal roll of 3 would succeed the TN, and/or the effect doesn't matter, and/or there is no time pressure. Then they don't have to roll. They just add 3 to the modifiers and calculate the effect as normal. This simulates the minimal effort of the skilled at simple practiced tasks. Then taking 3 each action/'roll' still takes a "round" as normal for when it comes to initiative. Or the normal amount of time for longer rolls.
In the above example where Ninja Bob had TN 7 remaining on their climb, their total bonuses from attributes and skill equals +8. Taking 3 would give a total of 11 and an effect of 4. Taking 3 again they could reach the top at the end of the next "round".

Taking 10. 

Related to this is the idea of Taking 10. 
Mostly this is for NPCs, so I don't have to roll for them. I just add 10 to their bonuses and the result is the TN for when the PCs interact with them.
When PCs take 10 there's a little more to it. Primarily, it always takes the maximum amount of time. So in combat they'd always go last. Secondly, in uncontested rolls it must be able to succeed. [There should probably be more here, but right now I'm coming up blank.]
So going back to Ninja Bob and his wall. If he had taken 10's it he'd have made 4 rolls of 18 and it'd have taken 24 seconds to climb.

Dealing With Failure.

A few weeks back I was reading a review of and about how Mouse Guard deals with failure. (If I can find it then I'll post a link here.) What that does is apply a narrative event to any failures. So if you fail to pick a lock a guard wanders by, or something.
That's all well and good but not what I'm interested in for Project Tarragon Oubliette. However it does raise issues about how to deal with failure within the game. 

A game should never hang on the success or failure of a single dice roll. It is always better for the players to win through their own skill rather than fail due to the skill of their character. However the players will invariably set themselves a goal that requires skill rolls to overcome. This should never be their main goal; if sent to free a princess from a bandit lair then nobody should need to roll to free her from her manacles. She should know where the keys are to be found if nothing else. However if they decide to raid the bandit’s treasure vault on their way then they should certainly need to roll to pick the locked door.
What happens if they fail to pick that lock? In most games in the style of the Old School that would be that. Too bad, so sad. Try again (and again and again until the dice roll in your favour). This is something I wish to avoid. So instead, in order:

0. Let Them Take 10.

If taking 10 would be a success then why are they rolling? Just let them get it done.

1. Burn Resources: Stamina & Resolve.

Both these pools of points exist to do stuff with. Normally they soak damage or boost saving throws but the option exists to use either, or both, to boost other rolls too. Something that can be done retroactively. Stamina for physical activities and resolve for mental. Some tasks, such as lockpicking, could arguably use both. If they have the points and are willing to spend them then let them. +1 per point spent.

2. Burn Resources: Tools.

Tools exist to help  us get things done, from hammers to, well, lockpicks and a whole variety in between. Some of these tools give bonuses to their related tasks. If these bonuses are insufficient then increase them by +1 temporarily, for one roll, but permanently reduce the bonus by -1 thereafter. Once the bonus goes below +0 then the tool is broken/destroyed. Thus you can increase the bonus to twice its normal rate, +1 for one roll. So if you have lockpicks +2, you can increase them to +5, but then they're gone.

3. Extend the Task.

Turn the task into an extended one. This is akin to rolling again as mentioned above which is why it comes here. If the players can't succeed in one roll then obviously they need to take their time. Turn the task into an extended one, as above and proceed as normal.

4. Let The Players Choose To Fail.

Sometimes a task just can't be completed. Some things are just beyond some people. And that's fine. Present the options above to the players and if they don't want to use them then fine. That's good.


Greebling is a scratch-built model maker term for the little decorative bits on the model that gives it texture and depth. In this case I'm using it as a term for all the little extra subsystems that make games interesting.

Explod!ing D!ice!

You may have notice in the first Ninja Bob example I used an unfamiliar dice notation 3d!6. The d! is the notation for exploding dice.
Exploding dice are open ended rolls where extra dice are can be rolled and added or subtracted from the total.
In this case any roll of 6 on d!6 is rolled again, or an extra d6 rolled, and the result added to the existing total.
meanwhile any roll of 1 on d!6 is rolled again and the result subtracted from the total. 
This can result in chain-reactions of exploding dice. As long as 1's and/or 6's are continued to be rolled then the additional rolls are made. However once they start exploding in one direction or another they can't reverse. A 6 followed by a 1 is just +1 and no more dice are rolled. A 1 followed by a 6 is just -6. Again no further dice are rolled. This can result in very high rolls and very low rolls. But not too low, as rolling 5 1's in a row and then a 2 is still only -6.
Exploding dice are intended for Action and (super) Heroic games.

Advantage & Disadvantage.

An idea nicked from the recent edition of the world's most popular TTRPG, but done differently. Instead of rolling twice and picking the best/worst result an extra die is added to the roll what you so with that die pulls the lovely bell curve out of shape. It also doesn't work well with exploding dice.
Some of you are looking at me like "What?" so let me break it down.


Rolling 3d6 with Advantage means you actually roll 4d6 and discard the lowest die (4d6-L, in common notation). This pushes the average roll out to around 13.


Rolling 3d6 with Disadvantage means actually rolling 4d6 and discarding the highest die (4d6-H). This pushes the average down to around 8.

What this means is... well I'm not entirely sure. I suppose it means I can implement the Advantage and Disadvantage stuff which will make some people happy.

That's all for now. 

Next time I'll write about Stamina and Vitality. TTFN!